What Was the Eastern Bloc?

A map showing Eastern Bloc countries.

The Eastern Bloc was a term coined by NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It is used to refer to former communist states in Eastern and Central Europe which included of the Soviet Union, countries in the Warsaw Pact, and Albania and Yugoslavia. The reason behind the formation of the pact is usually pointed to the aftermath of the Second World War which exposed the expansive and porous Russian border. The communist government saw it wise to not completely withdraw from the neighboring countries it had conquered during the war. Instead, it was decided that there should be a buffer zone made up of loyal neighbors.

Eastern Bloc

The Eastern Bloc was formed during the Second World War as a unified force led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Its initial intention was to fight Nazi Germany. However, after the war, the Union lacked a common goal. With Stalin afraid of the neighboring countries converting to capitalism, he mobilized, funded, and mentored socialist movements in the countries which subsequently grabbed power to become socialist states with allegiance to Moscow. These European countries along with Russia formed the Warsaw Pact. These countries then became known as the Eastern Bloc.

Member Countries

The member countries of the Eastern Bloc were spread across eastern and central Europe and comprised of The Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. While most of the countries entered the Eastern Bloc rather smoothly, Yugoslavia and East Germany posed a challenge. Yugoslavia, while being a communist country, did not immediately join the Eastern Bloc and was open to relations with NATO. The country’s leader Mr. Josip Broz Tito had disagreed with the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on several critical issues and in 1948 a split between the two ensued. After the war, Germany was subdivided by the Allied forces with the west part of the country being under British, American and French control while the eastern part was under Soviet rule. Due to differences in ideologies, the western powers named their part of the country the “Federal Republic of Germany” while the east was named by the Soviets as “the German Democratic Republic” (East Germany). East Germany was later incorporated into the Eastern Bloc.

Civil Restrictions

Movement across borders in the Eastern Bloc was severely restricted. Political ambitions were harshly suppressed by the communist governments through special secret police organizations which conducted executions of dissidents. The media in all the countries was heavily controlled by the communist governments and was used to spread state-sponsored propaganda to the public. All broadcasts emanating from western media was banned.

Collapse of the Eastern Bloc

Countries in the Eastern Bloc had experienced famine and poverty at unprecedented levels caused by rampant corruption and total failure in service delivery from authorities as well as massive investments to finance the Cold War. In the late 1980s, the Russian regime saw that their alienation from the rest of the world had been retrogressive to their economy and began to open the Eastern Bloc to foreign aid and investment. However, the majority of western powers pegged their assistance to ending of the Eastern Bloc and the independence of all states. Soviet leader Gorbachev implemented democratization and economic restructuring which ultimately saw the death of the Eastern Bloc. In October 1990 the Berlin wall was shut down and east and West Germany were unified, finally in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed into independent countries.

What Was the Eastern Bloc?

RankCountry Name1985 Population (Millions)
5East Germany16.69
8Soviet Union272

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